IBM Watercools Successor Of Record-breaking Power6 Supercomputer

San Francisco (CA) - IBM announced the replacement for its record-breaking Power 570 supercomputer. However, the Power 575 is a bit more more than just a successor, since IBM decided that it cannot rely on air-cooling anymore and adopted water-cooling instead: To cool every the 16 sockets in the system, IBM uses water-chilled copper plates positioned on top of the Power6 CPUs.

IBM is the latest company to explore water-cooling for data centers, claiming 40% savings in energy consumption and an 80% reduction in necessary air conditioning units in server rooms. Of course, everything is about beating the ecological and financial drum. If 40% savings in power is true, you are looking at a hefty reduction for electricity bill, which, over the lifetime of a server system, is likely to be higher than the cost of a hardware itself.

Fujitsu Siemens has been shipping water-cooled servers for several years, while certain IBM mainframes are even cooled to sub-zero temperatures using vapor chamber technology. Now that the Power 575 can be purchased with water-cooling technology the only remaining segment of the computing industry that does not have a single water-cooled product are pretty much classic servers and handhelds. Companies such as Asetek and CoolIT are currently working on the server part, but we suspect that there will be no need for watercooling in handhelds. Hopefully.

The Power 575 comes with up to 32 Power6 processor cores working at 4.7 GHz each. Given the fact that every processor core has 4 MB of L2 cache and 16 MB of L3 cache (32 MB shared), you’re looking at one heavy processing monster with 128 MB of L2 cache and 512 MB of L3 cache.

The system comes in a 2U form factor, which means that the new Hydro-Cluster rack can house 14 Power 575 rack units for a grand total of 448 processor cores and 3.5 TB of system memory. If you’re wondering about performance, we’re talking about 600 GFLOPS per node. The system was deployed first at Germany’s Max Planck Institute, and already has more than 10 customers, IBM said.

While water-cooling in servers isn’t entirely new, the next stage of the development at IBM definetely is. The company is working on implementing water-cooling directly onto a chip, using a Direct-2-Die approach. Yes, your wildest enthusiast dreams are coming to life in these professional grade products. Now, if we only could get Intel and AMD to make overclocking CPUs packaged for Direct-2-Die cooling? Imagine an 8-core Skulltrail system without copper heatspreaders, clocked nicely to 5 GHz using integrated water-cooling.

I still remember what my mentor said, in one of my first jobs as a system administrator in a bank: "The day supercomputers start using your amateurish water-cooling technology, hell will freeze over." George, guess what? It probably did.